BOSTON — Under coach Mike Hastings, Minnesota State has been known for its stingy defense and tough neutral-zone play. Including Thursday’s 5-1 win over Minnesota, the Mavericks have allowed an average of just 1.28 goals per game.
But the flip side of making it difficult for opponents to navigate through center ice is the offensive opportunities created. The Mavericks are second only to Denver in averaging 4.12 goals a game.
“I’ve always heard that defense wins championships,” said Minnesota State captain Wyatt Aamodt. “We play from our end out. That’s always been our identity and made us successful and I think everyone bought in tonight.”
“You need all five guys playing offense; you need all five guys playing defense,” Hastings said.
“We don’t have one selfish guy on our team,” said Mavericks assistant captain Reggie Lutz. “That’s kind of our MO.”
“I thought our forwards did a really, really good job of coming back on the backcheck tonight and picking up late guys,” said defenseman Benton Maass. “That allowed us to stay up on our gaps and force a lot of dump-ins rather than rushes, which is something we kind of pride ourselves in trying to end the rush at the blue line.”
The Mavericks were successful in the neutral zone by keeping it simple.
“Going into the game, we just had a mindset of using as much banks as we could, getting pucks deep,” said Maass. “I think the simple play was definitely the right play tonight. At times you don’t want to get too flashy, especially when the puck is bouncing out there. I think that was big for us tonight, just using our indirect chips and letting our forwards get into the offensive zone.”
“You could tell when we were clean through the neutral zone it helped us with the transition,” said Aamodt. “I think as the game went on we got better with that.”
Once the Mavericks were able to set up a forecheck, they wore down the Minnesota defense.
“It’s their forecheck,” said Minnesota coach Bob Motzko. “They’re relentless on the forecheck. … You spend time defending in your zone. You ice the puck. We dump it, then we’d have to change.”
Minnesota’s lone goal came on a Mavericks miscue, but it didn’t take Minnesota State off Hastings’ game plan.
“Everybody was kind of bought in, we looked at each other, we didn’t want our season to end tonight,” said Lutz. “We knew what had to be done.”
“The guys did a really good job of just sticking with it,” said Hastings. “There wasn’t a lot of panic on the bench or in the locker room. As they have this entire season, they stuck with it and they were rewarded for it.”
The Mavericks will be put to the test against the only team to average more goals than them this season, Denver, on Saturday night.